[May 4, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
I spend the early afternoon starving, waiting for Honey to prepare and present herself before the divine presence of the one and only Prince of Heaven. She told me that her companionship would arrive no later than an hour pass noon. Alas, mortal girls are untrustworthy. As the newly minted President of her Coop, other inconsiderate residents kidnap her time in exchange for their insignificant pleads. Such intrusions upon her precious time with me is intolerable, so Honey has decided to become the Treasurer in the next round of elections. She only needs her hands on the money anyway.
Fortunately for the great softrice, the Elder of the Moon aligned the stars for Episode 03 of Office of Practical Jokes to air today. There are no coincidences. His arrangement entertains me as I wait. Linda Chung stars in this episode, showcasing both her fierce acting skills and fantastic sense of humor. An extra bonus is the appearance of Grace Wong, my official connecting bridge between an idol dream girl and a real-life friend. Both girls inject sugar sweetness and nonstop laughter into my waiting period.
Instead of apologizing for the hour wait, Honey blames me for making her wait two minutes for me to put on some clothes. I suppose we all have our temperaments. And then we have our cravings. Other than my awesomeness, Honey desires to swallow some churros into her belly. We enjoy a sunny walk to La Churreria, a Spanish snack bar that I first learned about through Wenky’s Facebook photos. The true restaurant, Socarrat, is next door. Honey and I postpone paella for tonight. Our afternoon shall be built from churros dreams.
284 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012
The small rectangular space fits a snack and cashier counter in the front, stalked by less than a handful of elevated square tables and stools, and a hidden kitchen furthest back. A chalkboard menu stares from above the counter, pretending to be a European transplant rather than a cheap American parlor trick. The only appealing detail of its decor is the left wall of marble squares, patterned with white and black designs evoking the ever fabulous game of playing cards.
I am not a big fan of churros, evident through my lack of need to try them even while I was touring Spain proper. Yet I am a god to all people, most particularly to pretty girls, so when Honey wants a sweet snack, I am more than happy to oblige. Thinking that Honey is more a vanilla than chocolate girl, I order the two stuffed churros besides chocolate. She breaks my spell of delusion by revealing my doom, if my smarts will ever have me believe that I can crack the logical code of the opposite sex. Chocolate has a place in her life, and had I not interfered, it would be now through a churros.
The first performer on our late lunch is a Churros Rellenos, stuffed with crema. The outer shell is a yellow crust of different layers, dusted in sugar, and oozes pure white cream with each bite. Honey and I employ teamwork in tackling the churros, wrapping our hands with napkins and snapping it in half on a cued count. Life is best shared, as with my churros with Honey, and as with my stories with lover and you. Yet I would not share churros with another soon.
An unpleasant surprise to Honey is that our churros are cold. She wants to enjoy her snack as I am to her, piping hot. The shell is also hard and stale, possibly because the kitchen premade them for counter display. The only positive spin from this disappointment is our talks of visiting Spain. She can have all the hot churros she wants there, while I shall dine on the chocolate nipples of Spanish babes in the wild party beach town of Ibiza. To each our own prize.
The croquettes also fall below our expectations. La Churreria serves us four crispy and creamy croquettes, in name only, by a tapas called Croquetas. They are potato sticks, deep fried, and void of any meat stuffing. This popular snack is omnipresent in Spain, and a signature tapas on the global culinary scene. At this relatively unknown nook in Manhattan though, it is a purely profit generating machine for the restaurant. We could be buying bags of potatoes in Chinatown instead, if Honey and I did not exhaust our dollars on four quick bites of average nibbles.
A sucker for pretty faces and fancy names, I get the Ibiza, a grilled chicken sandwich with crispy onion, salsa de chimichurri, balsamic reduction, and pimientos de padron served on a baguette. The underlings of this sandwich are homemade potato chips. Honey and I strategize on taking the pawns before attacking the king, which was our preferred offensive. The sandwich was double stacked with grilled chicken breasts, and loosely joined by jalapenos and a mild Spanish sauce. I take the Spanish theme and repurpose the sandwich into an opening pitch for an Ibiza vacation. Honey bites into the smokescreen sandwich and my charming persistence, while weighing the option against other European list toppers, specifically the sparkly Paris and a classical Rome.
Lunch closes on a cycle of sweet smiles and cold churros. We snap the fat churros stuffed with dulce de leche and view my collection of photographic victories from North America, South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Only one picture of us, playing with a giant black ball in London, made it into the book. We leave the American tapas restaurant, reaffirming the need for more travels together, in grand preparations for the creation of a forthcoming second photo book!
To combat the recent string of negative energy – the passing of Sita Chan, the Boston twin bombings, and the Ya’an earthquake – Linda Chung flew to Guam to do a photo book as well, with all proceeds going to charity. Against my principle of not contributing to good deeds, I will still support its summer release and purchase a copy (perhaps through Little Lam). Aside from bikini shots to inject positivity into this world, beholders of this wonderful photo album will also get an inside peek into the oddities of her personality. I want to do the same and share my everlasting spunk with lover, family, and to all my fans too!
Honey and I divert from our mission of the day to shop for a pair of clothespin chopsticks at Pearl River and CB2. Her Caucasian boss and his wife needs the extra assistance to enjoy their love of sushi, although with their money, I would hire a voluptuous personal waitress to spoon feed me as the ideal solution. We successfully make the purchase at the latter store and continue to Uniqlo, where Honey insisted on buying a tight and transparent turquoise undershirt. She really wants to give Linda Chung a run for her money with her second appearance in my photo book!
Our next stop is a stroll uptown to Forbidden Planet. I originally wanted to wait for Honey to attend Free Comic Book Day, so that she would also pick up some free comic books and possibly be indoctrinated into a world of marvels, but they actually ran out of free comic books by this point. After failing to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (for the third time) and Third Avenue Garden to buy rose nectar, we blotch getting our free copy of Infinity too!
Yet Lady Luck rewards my failures with a success in seeing Iron Man 3 in 3D. I thought the movie would be sold out, which quite a few time slots were, but we were just in time for their 5:00 PM showing. We found our seats, next to a single Caucasian girl to my left. Her appearances were fair, so it was strange that she had to watch the movie by herself rather than with a boyfriend or a group of girl friends. Then the situation became weird.
Blessed with superior handsomeness and undeniable friendliness, the single girl asks me to watch her handbag as she steps out of the theater. Sadly, terrorism is very real in our day and age. Why would a single girl go to a blockbuster movie’s weekend opening, leave her handbag unattended (except by a stranger, albeit a charming one), and walk out? If she needed to use the restroom, a reasonable person would have done so during the commercials and previews. She did this after the movie started.
Consulting Honey on my over thinking and paranoia, there was a moment where we wondered if we should notify someone. We did not want to get blown up and lose a limp. Thankfully, I only did the girl a favor in exchange for an anxiety attack. She returns with a large coke and bag of popcorn. Now Honey knew why the girl was not worried about theft – she had her wallet with her. With the reassurance that the world has one less mad bomber, Honey and I enjoy the movie.
Iron Man 3 has had mixed reviews. Some call it the best Iron Man movie ever, while others slam it as a waste of time. I take neither positions and fall in between. Iron Man 3 is a good movie, but it is neither as definitive as the first one nor as epic as the Avengers. I see the flaws, but I still like it.
The most controversial point of the movie is the Mandarin. If you are not a hardcore comic book fan, like Honey, the twist works flawlessly. Now if you are familiar with the ultimate Iron Man villain in the comic books, the movie is a painful castration of everything that he ever was. I had my laughs with this change and I can accept it (mostly because the movie leaves it open to redo the Mandarin in proper justice in future installments anyway). However, the bait and switch seems unnecessary, other than demonstrating that Marvel can still keep secrets and surprise the audience.
Would it be so bad if Marvel directly marketed the villain as Extremis? The source comic book arc, with definitive art by Adi Granov, is one of the best Iron Man stories ever, if not the best.
Another deviation from the comic books is that Tony Stark did not get the Extremis upgrade, likely to maintain the realism in this cinematic universe. He is just remote controlling his armor parts, instead of having it hidden within his skin.
I hated Mark 42 when it first debuted. The armor has too much gold, overwhelming the red. Yet I did not get many chances to hate the armor in the movie. Tony Stark was the true star of the show, while Iron Man did not get much screen time. I applaud Marvel for showcasing their characters as people before heroics, even though the decision might also be to appease the actors by giving them proper face time. It is a good thing that I love Robert Downey Jr. so much that I can just watch him talk and talk, forgetting that the movie actually has to go somewhere. (I said the same about him in the Avengers.) Marvel, I do not care how much money you have to spend, I want RDJ back!
Please fix the plot flaws too. While everyone was rooting for the big finale when the legion of Iron Man armors would come into play, it also brought into question why he did not use them earlier. Would you really make a public threat against an “international terrorist” and not protect your house from oncoming helicopters with missiles? Would you really allow the love of your life to be in danger instead of just summoning all your armors to blast those attack copters and missiles out of the sky then and there? And would you really (needlessly) endanger your own life by conducting detective work with scrap metal rather than having a spare armor come to you?
Whenever Tony Stark remotes control all of his armors to attack a bad guy in the comic books, it is an awesome event. You just love it! The house party in Iron Man 3 though, is really just a distraction in the background. You do not get to see a horde of armors attacking the one big bad. They are just blasting nameless and faceless henchmen when they should be the main event. And then when the battle is all and done with, why would you need to blow up all your armors? Everyone knows Tony Stark will just end up building more!
Pepper Potts needs to become Rescue in Iron Man 4 and War Machine needs his own movie. Girls need their role models too, while a man in an armor suit is a proven concept that works. Whether RDJ is too expensive or if his schedule does not permit more Iron Man movies, Marvel can get Don Cheadle to do something with War Machine in the meanwhile. Although it might not make as much money, a War Machine movie will work. Another idea is if they need RDJ to carry further Iron Man solo movies, then War Machine can take his place on the Avengers, where they have enough star power. It would allow Captain America to step up into the leadership role and it would also be very interesting to see the new dynamics with War Machine interacting with the other Avengers.
In terms of the investment side of Iron Man 3, I have a mixed bag of emotions. While I am glad that the Chinese did not mess up the film, and although they should be getting an agreeable portion of profits for their investment, I do feel they are also getting the short end of the stick. There was no Mandarin, the story did not ever go to China (although they filmed there), and the Chinese stars had pointless cameos, in which Fan Bingbing did not even make it into the American cut of the movie.
I really want to see Fan Bingbing. The real-life fashionista would make for a perfect Janet van Dyne (aka the Wasp)! The only obstacle might be her English, where her role as Blink in X-Men: Days of Future Past will be her entrance exam into Hollywood. I do hope she passes and will come back for more Marvel movies.
If I did not insist, Honey would not stay to watch the scene after the credits. Even with multiple assurances that there would be something to see, Honey vocalized just as many doubts during the wait. She missed all of the post-credit scenes in past Marvel movies. Thankfully, Honey has me now.
After the unstoppable success of the Avengers, Marvel is more than confident of their movies as standalones now. Iron Man 3 was proving that these movies can and will succeed without leading into future movies. Ironically, those elements are what we are looking towards. Even Honey wanted to know what would be next.
To satisfy her excitement, I explain to Honey how the Marvel Cinematic Universe play out in phases. Phase 1 was Iron Man leading up to the Avengers. Iron Man 3, which we just watched, was the beginning of Phase 2, which will lead up to the Avengers 2. Phase 3 is still in the conceptualization stage, with only Ant-Man and Doctor Strange confirmed as having the green-light. The world and I would be surprised if Marvel does not include Iron Man 4, Thor 3, Captain America 3, and the Avengers 3 to their plans.
Of all their plans, I am most excited to see Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel does deserve credit for taking risks and doing something different rather than taking the easy road and continuing with what has worked. It is difficult to imagine now, but Iron Man was a huge risk back in the day too. If that movie did not work, Marvel Studios might not be a viable business and RDJ might not have a career.
Each Marvel movie is a step building towards the future, similar to how our life experiences come together to make us who we are. In a mirroring form of growth, my past experiences with lover feed my sweet longings for her, which in turn mothers extraordinary hope for our future. When I am not a hopeless romantic though, this is what I do on my off time – watching Marvel movies, eating out, and collecting my stories on how much and in what ways I do miss lover.
Socarrat Paella Bar – Chelsea
259 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
The restaurant on the hit list tonight is Socarrat, although Honey and I switch from going to the Nolita branch to the one in Chelsea. It is a shorter walk from the Union Square theater, and our post-dinner stroll downtown will strategically pass Amorino in the West Village for ice cream. Planning ahead is one of my superpowers.
Socarrat is another rectangular space, divided in two. The left half of the rectangular is the mostly abused. It starts with a bar, continues with elevated long tables for six, and ends with a spacious unisex bathroom. The right half of the restaurant are round tables for bigger groups. I dislike elevated tables and sitting on bar stools, and I especially abhor the need to share tables with strangers.
On positive notes, the ceiling has dropdown doors for their fans, which caught the interest of Honey’s wandering eyes. And I like their business card designs, which uses the Jack, Queen, and King from playing cards to differentiate their three different branches of this paella bar.
Honey starts the night with a glass of Sidra, the fancy codename for apple cider. Her drink is heavily infused with bubbles, which I do not prefer.
I have a cocktail that was agreeably named, I Miss Ibiza. Master of manipulations and communications, I am. The ingredients include sake, peach liqueur, cranberry, and orange juice. Yet when Honey took a sip, her lips were a clean taste of mint.
The two of us sat along the wall, so shortly after, a couple sat at the other end of our table. At least the middle seats were empty, spacing us between the strangers. I mind the presence of strangers less when they are pretty girls too. The one across from me was a pretty blonde. Honey teases me on how easy I am with one night stands. However, midway through our meal, the girl reaches out to feel the man flat on his chest, and rather than caressing his face, she was more so sizing up his chin. Albeit credited with some attractive facial features, I warn Honey that the girl was no longer safe to participate in our game of sex and dungeons. Safety first, I always say. Crazy wrenches are unnecessary in my life.
The typical doorway into the world of tapas is the Patatas Bravas. Socarrat’s inferior version is fried potato cubes, spiced with ginger, alioli, guindilla, and tomato sauce. If you ever had this dish at La Boqueria in Barcelona, which I did, you would know this is Hell compared to that Heaven. Honey is disappointed on how plain and unremarkable this tapas is as well. The only proper compensation is to fly to Spain and revel in a true night out.
Our second and last tapas is a special of the night, the Cochinillo. Its American passport refers to the pork cube as suckling pig, perched atop a bed of greens and surrounding brown sauce. The imperfect duo of meat and fat are soft, while the skin is limp, but it neither offends nor pleases. The kitchen still has a ways to go before their culinary graduation.
Honey instinctively wanted the Arroz Negro upon reading the menu, which is a big round plate of black rice topped with bounties from the sea. Yet when our waiter announced a paella special in celebration of Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, Honey changed her heart to go with the Mexicana Paella. Our new rice dish is a colorful circle of pork, steak, avocado, melted cheese, tomato, onion, and cilantro. The waiter failed to highlight cilantro in his description, hurdling Honey into this food trap. She hates cilantro. An additional shocker was the inclusion of bones with their pork. I dislike the hassle of bones, particularly when the meat itself is not worth the effort.
Our paella was a disaster. Even the typically gooey wonder of melted cheese did not save this dish. The paella lacked distinctive flavors. In one instance, it was a positive point, which allowed Honey to continue eating it. Otherwise, I would be left with huge portions of the gigantic serving of paella. I would say that Socarrat is generous, except the pricing on the paella was hefty too. If diners had the option, the two of us could have shared a half serving of this paella, and pay half the price!
The final disappointment is how Socarrat, named after the toasted layer of rice on the bottom of the paella, even fails at its namesake. Our Mexicana Paella supported few strips of this crunchy snack. On the occasions where it did, they were unmemorable.
Aggressively lusting after my handsomeness, the blonde across from me drags her hesitant man and rushes to the bathroom. She could not wait until they found a hotel room. Six minutes of hot sex in the bathroom later, they pay the bill and leave. Meanwhile, Honey and I stay for dessert.
Honey is initiated into the modern world, where she is still healing from the shock that it was the girl proposing such an act. Moments later, Honey recalls a different incident from our time at Flex Mussels, in which a woman was so drunk that she fell flat on the floor. The different sides of human nature are on for performance whenever Honey is out with me.
Unwilling to learn our lessons from the food, Honey and I give the desserts a chance. We share a Crema Catalana, because Honey has a liking for crème brulee. In actuality, the dessert tastes like flan, watered down and stripped of flavoring and texture. Our night would have to be rescued elsewhere.
After visiting the bathroom, Honey and I recuperate over an evening stroll down into the West Village. When Honey was in Hong Kong, she did not want to see the Big Buddha or historic temples. Her idea of sightseeing is just eating around. Following this logic, I take her sightseeing in New York.
60 University Place
New York, NY 10003
The generous prince that I am, I offer Honey her first ice cream flower cone. Amorino is a European transplant, whose specialty is selling ice cream cones in the shape of a flower. You pay first at the counter and then proceed to choose as many flavors as you want. Honey guards our table and relooks at my photo book, while I acquire our flower cone of pear, strawberry, and figs.
Honey and I agree that pear, which is the special flavor of the month, is the best of our three flavors. Taste of the ripe fruit rushes at you faster than oncoming cars, riding the highway of your tongue down into the yummy abyss of our stomachs. Strawberry was our safety option and does just that, securing us with a stable and reliable ice cream flavor in our mix. Lastly, Amorino generously offered three large figs in our cone, which Honey fed to me so that she would remain slim.
Happy with my companionship and her very first ice cream flower cone, Honey plots for returning campaigns. Before we leave, I ask for a spoon of Nocciola for Honey to taste. With one lick, she falls in love and forgets all the flavors that came before it. Nocciola it is on a future conquest.
We spill into the streets on our journey home, crashing against a tsunami of chilly night breezes. Honey feels cold in her light clothing. Being the solution to everything and all occasions, I take her arms and ask her to look into me. Her heart melts faster than ice cream. And she is no longer afraid of the cold.
When we arrive home, I open her thank you card. My greatness takes up more space than she has to write, which is as the world is. Near the end of my compliments, Honey says lover will notice me and appreciate everything that I do for her, including this softrice blog, and love me for all that I am. In the warmth of her words, my heart melts with my happy tears too.
Always in a puff of smoke,
[March 23, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
Uselessness and helplessness are recurring themes in life. Whether it is a family member going to the hospital, an ex-girlfriend leaving you (because you are too good to her, of course), or a fellow softrice adventurer converting to a Paleo diet for a month, you are reduced to an overwhelming taste of mortality and powerlessness. Yet with the ability to turn the world upside down and the patience to call back countless times and wait on the phone for nearly an hour to speak with the reservationist, I secure a time and date at the sixth hardest table in New York. Such an ace in my hand easily convinces Honey to ditch her diet and cheat with me. The best approach to solving sky-falling problems is always to divide, focus, and conquer.
Lover does not eat beef, out of choice, so I have never been interested in conquering steakhouses. Steak, more or less, will look the same anyway. Although they may taste different, there is a visual monopoly on steak, so its reporting value has always been minimal. My mission objective is to show lover the world, which have sent me globetrotting and dabbling into culturally different cuisines. However, with a good spin, I can still tell lover an equally compelling story with a steakhouse. Peter Luger makes that easy by being the most famous one in New York.
I grew up mostly eating beef. My favorites were black pepper steak on sizzling iron, stir-fry beef and green peas, and uncontaminated hamburgers (in other words, no cheese or pickles). Lover changed all that with her disinterest in cow parts and soft-opened my virgin palate to diversified food sources. To return my karma to this world, I am doing the same with Honey, except I am having more success in deflowering her to the dark arts of credit card churning.
After a laborious month of whispering into her heart, I convinced Honey to open a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. It is the best rewards card currently on the market; 40,000 points in exchange for spending $3,000 within three months and no foreign transaction fees. The thick metal card is a great way to break the ice in picking up girls too. Fully convinced of its benefits, Honey only took one day to persuade her younger brother in opening up the same card too. Sadly, I get no commissions from Chase. Honey excitedly waited for the arrival of her new toy and plotted its maiden voyage at Peter Luger, but this is when I step in and tell her that there is no Santa Claus in the North Pole. The money-making steakhouse only accepts debit cards or their very own Peter Luger credit card.
Justifiably afraid that her daughter would be unable to detach herself from my unconquerable handsomeness, Honey’s mother conveniently asserts jewelry shopping on her day off and steals Honey away from me for most of the daytime. Originally, the two of us were going to brunch at Sugar and Plumm and then photographically document the Metropolitan Museum of Art on my camera. The plan, as is the world, is merely a plaything for me to adjust to my liking. We revise the museum visit to April 13, when we will conquer Daniel, and if I do not get screening tickets before then, we will see Iron Man 3 when we have churros and paella at Socarrat on May 4. Life always work out my way anyway.
The moon is a bit far for tonight, so I simply fly Honey across the Williamsburg Bridge. We arrive early, 7:00 PM for a 7:45 PM reservation. Since this was our first time in this Brooklyn neighborhood, the two of us stroll further down to the river. We talk about life and responsibility, alongside traveling and mentally carving our future playgrounds.
Honey will visit family in Fujian next year, which is the same ancestral hometown as lover’s. Ideally, the trip will be two weeks in length, but we will steal a week and do round-island tours of Taiwan or Hainan. The nights in Hong Kong for the head and tail of the trip will be party central too, bathing ourselves in the happy juices of Lan Kwai Fong. Until that tune is sung, Honey is dreaming of a Mediterranean cruise. Although Greece is no Costa Viola, I respect her wanderlust and note to provide my travel agency contact, for possibly better deals on flights and vacation packages there.
At the end of our short walk, the East River greets us with a cool breeze and a disappearing dark blue sky. The residential area is less welcoming. Although peaceful, it is unresponsive to life. On our walk back to Peter Luger, Honey suggests that when the weather is warmer, we should picnic in greener neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She also wonders what images I conjure when I think of picnic food. My answer was the typical white blankets and sandwich baskets. Angel was more the fan of sleeping on grass, lover with the beach, while I much more prefer the warm bodies of female companions. For now, a warm, brick steakhouse with Honey will have to do.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Honey and I were still half an hour early for our reservation. The host and nearby waiters held in their laughter when asked if there were areas of interest nearby. Peter Luger is the only incubator of life in this neighborhood, and nothing challenged their reign for the past century. With our table still not ready for us, the bar was the best option to exhaust our wealth while stalling for time.
The bar is an intimidating club for the inexperienced and the uninitiated, such as I. There are bottles of everything, lined up against the wall. Yet you would hardly ever point and order one thing on its own. Even when my company books an entire bar and I can freely order anything without having price as a consideration, I do not know what there is to order. A menu would solve everything, but this is hardly ever available at any bar. Honey is not much wiser than I am, but she has one or two drinks to spare her from complete ignorance. I have what she has, which is a Malibu Bay Breeze. The drink is sweet for her, and ironically so, not nearly enough sugar for me.
We transfer our ignorance about the bar to wine and cheese. Honey ponders the mysterious art of pairing wine and cheese. Westerners are in love with the marriage, but we have no insight into their magic. Being the picky eater that I was, I scraped off every trace of cheese when my parents bought the accidental cheeseburger from McDonald’s. I have since learned to enjoy cheese (and to avoid McDonald’s like the plague), so I can heartily devour cheeseburgers now. However, I would say I am at the beginner’s level with cheese. As for their orgasmic combination with wine, until I am a converted master, I still brush them aside as Western pretentiousness.
Our first 15 minutes at the bar was quiet and relaxed, where the bartender shared all of his attention between us and a few other couples. The next half an hour was a claustrophobic stampede of oncoming guests, clogging the bar so much so that Honey and I could barely squeeze through the sardines to get to our table when it was ready.
The host brings us to the second floor. Honey enjoys the more private environment. Although the smaller and quieter space is more conductive for conversations, I cannot help but feel that Peter Luger is not proud enough of us to spotlight us in their center stage downstairs.
Service is commendably nice and friendly. There was no hint of arrogance or pushiness in their mannerism, as falsely implied online. The Internet is full of lies, by lying people. Albeit verging on inappropriateness, a different waiter had plenty of fun with a big table of Peter Luger virgins across the room. He vowed to deflower them all tonight! Honey and I were “virgins” too, but we did not make it a point to broadcast the fact.
A worthless piece of trash thought of the Paleo diet and polluted Honey’s mind with it. The idea is to eat like Neanderthals to lose weight. Considering that the sourcing and upbringing of food is now from a thoroughly contaminated planet, the feat is next to impossible, and utterly unnecessary to achieve the same results. While I am unaffected tonight because it is her cheat day, the venom from such evil thoughts anger me. If you do not stand with me, you are against me. And the Paleo diet is definitely an enemy to be crushed without mercy. The only good to come out of this is planting the habit of Honey taking pictures of her food. I give her a like for snapping pictures of our meal with her phone, even if I have to remind her of her newfound responsibilities.
The bread basket is a big starch disappointment. The variety of five different breads all succumbed to blandness. I injected so much butter into my pieces that Honey began to worry about the escalated abuse on my health. Meanwhile, I worry about Honey becoming an addictive gambler, after I convinced her to open a trading account to buy gold at its current low. We are already $10 richer from my current earnings on IAU.
Our newfound wealth allows us the luxury of tasting Luger’s Sizzling Bacon, a proud strip of pink meat and white fat with chars of black on the edges. Stereotypically judged as a heart attack, this fierce strip proves otherwise. The bacon does not melt in your mouth, but it does not feel fat either. This famous appetizer is satisfyingly good and successfully wets our appetite for the true star of the show.
Steak for 2 is a must. While Prima will eat the steak rare, Honey still has a ways to go in the consumption of raw food. The best she could do is salmon sushi, and even then soy sauce and wasabi are required cavalry. I teach Honey that chicken and pork needs to be fully cooked, but beef and lamb are best at medium rare. In this transition period for her, we order our steak medium.
If you judge a steak by its first two slices, they are among the best ever! I even suspect that the waiter knew which four pieces were the best, to serve two each on our plates. You can easily taste the quality of the meat. The steak is soft and smooth, with quite an enjoyable chew to its pink center. Aside from its perfectly charred black exterior, the meat was a bloody pink, so much so that I was afraid that Honey would not be able to eat it. Yet to my surprise, she found the level of cooking to be just right.
Until tonight, the best steak for Honey was Del Frisco’s. She savors their seasoning, a masterly sprinkle of sea salt. However, in terms of the quality of the meat, Honey nominates Peter Luger as well. A fan of flavoring and sauces, she likes the tangy Peter Luger sauce too. Ultimately, it is a battle of equals between her, as Del Frisco’s steak requires no additional condiments, while Peter Luger’s steak, armed with their signature sauce, is the superior mouthful. Nevertheless, I can now say Honey’s best steak was had with the princely me, and both of us know that there is nothing as good as my awesome sauce!
I like the natural taste of my food, so I mostly shower my pieces of the steak in its own fatty oils. Yet it is a different experience having it with Peter Luger’s sauce, nudging me to alternate between the two ways of eating New York’s most famous steak. I am admittedly surprised that Peter Luger is not simply a reputation. They are a quality restaurant as well.
Now if you judge a steak by its whole, approximately 16 pieces and the t-bone, the story is somewhat different. It is a steep downward hill after the first two slices. The law of diminishing return holds true with this case study. After the third slice, you start to feel full. By the fourth or fifth piece of meat onwards, it is almost as if you are forcing yourself to eat it for the sole sake of finishing your food. Both the plate and steak rapidly cools too. Cold steak is incomparable to its sizzling past self.
The menu seems specifically skewed in favor of heavy eaters. Our steak, while labeled for two, could have easily fed three to four hungry patrons. Brown bagging steak home is a frequently occurring after party as a consequence. Lover would be proud of me for packing the leftover bread too, and my mom would equally be so in knowing that the rare gentleman in me gave everything for Honey to take home. It is a guarantee that softrice adventurers never go hungry.
Regrettably, the Fried French Potatoes for 1 did not make it home with us. We left a side dish behind. The meal as a whole was reasonably inexpensive for what it was, but the value and the quality was not there for their French fries. McDonald’s has better crisp than them (when fresh). Salt had infiltrated the ranks of the fries, but we still needed Peter Luger’s signature sauce to serve as an alternative to ketchup. Although lagging behind in taste when matched against a childhood classic, it was still not the excuse to banish them from their lifelong cause of feeding us – Our waiter simply did not offer to pack the few remaining fries with our steak. (He did with the bread and I accepted.)
A meal at Peter Luger’s is complete with a toss of their chocolate coins, dutifully branded with their name on the golden wrappers. The sweets are a goodwill gesture, rewarding your loyal exchange of cash for their steak. I taste a chocolate coin, in case they were different than what was available in the outside world. It is only mildly sweet, unable to elevate my joy in life. Honey suffers the same fate of indifference; she prefers mint in her chocolates.
Peter Luger is inexpensive for what it is. They also place an unsustainable amount of trust in that you will pay your bill. As the restaurant limits accepted forms of payment – cash, debit card, or their Peter Luger credit card (which is useless, in terms of reward points) – Honey and I had to go downstairs to pay with her debit card. Nothing prevented us from simply walking out without ever settling our bill, other than a record of my name and phone number used to make the reservation. You could easily earn a free steak dinner with some foresight and patience, by booking under a fake name and an untraceable number (such as a public payphone), and the guts to disappear without paying.
A legal-friendlier method to a free steak dinner is to charm a pretty girl in taking you out. In addition to the ultimate reward of my holy presence, Honey also accumulates merit for her karma and enlightenment of the soul! Happiness follows as well, such as the hilarious instance when Honey cannot remember her own pin number to the debit card. The third time was the charm; my birth date accessed an account of unimaginable wealth.
Unwilling to part so soon from my awesome companionship, Honey agreed to a late night dessert at the other end of the city. She crawls into my arms as I fly her across the greatest night view in the world. If New York City does not suit your taste, my handsomeness is more than a superior alternative. Honey smartly decided on the latter without a need for further consideration, carefully internalizing my perfection into the memory cells throughout her body. Particularly mesmerizing was the right dimple on my smile, gently reminding her of true marvels that balance the natural and divine.
Sugar and Plumm
377 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10024
In the blink of an eye, Honey and I arrive at the candy wonderland in the hearts of children everywhere (or just the Upper West Side). Sugar and Plumm came under my radar after multiple foodie bloggers posted pictures of their Earthquake in a Bowl, an obese mix of cake and ice cream in a fishbowl. Such a cute concept in the delivery of dessert has its appeal, which I can share with lover.
The main entrance to Sugar and Plumm has doorway handles that are steel lollipops. We pull them open and let ourselves in to visit this “Purveyor of Yum”. The restaurant is mostly split into three sections. The sit down restaurant, which we will visit later, is on the far left. The right wing is an exhibit of chocolate and candy that will break your bank, including edible replicas of Easter egg houses with resident bunnies, glass slippers, and luxury handbags. Lastly, the front and center is the cashier, reinforced by a platoon of macarons at its side, and a cafe behind it.
After a tour of their offerings, Honey and I sat down at a small table for two. The hostess asks if we were here for dinner or just dessert and provides us with the menu according to our answer. From there on, we were ignored for a long while. The wait in the beginning was unnoticeable, as the two of us admire their decor. The room is mostly white, with a colorful dessert mural on the side wall, and swirls of Spring colored lights.
Honey likes the ambiance enough to start planning future return trips already, with her girl friends that enjoy sweets. She has been to Spot Dessert Bar and is a fan of their Green Tea Lava Cake, but this is somewhere new and undiscovered. An expert on all things sweet, I suggest the other dessert restaurants in New York – Cha An, Kyotofu, and most especially, Serendipity 3.
Then the downhill fall of Sugar and Plumm began. Hordes of masculine waiters busily circled around the room, except mostly ignoring us. Honey bursts into laughter, only because their service uniform is largely similar to what I am wearing tonight – a purple and white checkerboard dress shirt. The slight difference is that their purple is darker and the white boxes are bigger. Both details require much more effort to discern than a reasonable person is willing to give. Honey jokes that service sucks because I am expected to serve myself!
Service is not any better after we have established contact. They are out of the Earthquake in a Fishbowl. Certain cake slices in that signature dessert are sold out by this time of the night. As to why they cannot explain the outage, but still make the dessert with slices of different cakes, is beyond me. Good business sense is not a part of their business model though. Even when I tried to move on from the grave disappointment, they ran out of my next choice too, an interesting Grasshopper Icebox. Honey says I am cursed from having the desserts that I want, and we should simply leave to return another time. However, another time would be too long of a time, and there is no tomorrow. It is already too late to journey downtown to Sundaes and Cones anyway. I assess the situation and settle on a slice of cake that was still available, the Heaven and Hell Cake.
Apparently, to get a slice of cake and put it on a plate takes a lot of time, more than half an hour. I do not know what type of training most restaurants give their staff, but I assumed that such basic skill and initiative would have been a prerequisite to their hiring. Similar to one night stands, it is safer to use a condom than to assume. The slice of cake would take its time to arrive, perhaps the dessert believed in being fashionably late. Honey and I were not amused though.
Sugar and Plumm’s horrible service gave us the window to do two things. First, I shared a story about on the best service that I had ever experienced. It was at the Publican in Chicago. To simplify what I ordered, I had oysters, pork chop, pork rinds, and a blueberry crumble. At a certain point in my meal, between the pork chop and the blueberry crumble, my kind and super friendly waitress thought that the kitchen took too long to come out with my pork rinds. I did not even notice or mind the waiting. Yet she took it upon herself to go complain to her manager and made my entire meal free of charge. The manager even came over to apologize herself, gave me her business card, and told me that she will take good care of me and my friends on a return visit. That was service. And I would recommend everyone to go to the Publican. Sugar and Plumm, on the other hand, is a wasteland.
The second thing I got to do was to buy macarons, but that took forever too. A man was in front of me at the cashier, trying to order drinks and pastries for his family. Sadly, he had no luck. Sugar and Plumm had nothing for him, not even black coffee. The cashier even refused to give a plastic bag to another customer, until the manager agreed. After holding up the line for 15 minutes, I was finally able to order my macarons.
Lover is a big fan of strawberries, so the Strawberry and Poppy Seed Macaron was a no-brainer. At most other places, strawberry macarons are only pink. The ones here are sharp red shells with pink fillings. The shiny black poppy seeds sticking around the macaron made it a visually outstanding choice too. Its texture is not as light as air, but it is not as disgustingly chewy as those from Macaron Cafe either. As for its fruit flavor, it is not as strong as the preferred jam substance in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
My social circle is an exclusive club, but otherwise, I am a pretty easygoing person. Honey and I reverse roles when it comes to eating. She would make friends with everyone, but become extremely critical over what goes in her mouth. The case in point is her conclusion that the Rose and Lychee Macaron tastes the same (read flavorless) as the Strawberry and Poppy Seed Macaron. The macarons are also overbearingly sticky and sweet against her final judgment. I object to her rash proceedings, because I can actually taste the rose in my half of our macaron.
However, the slight hint of rose flavoring in the macaron is a trap. A taste of the flower is enough to unleash a flood of addictive urges hidden within me. I desperately miss the bottle of Sence Rose Nectar that I had at Burj Al Arab (the famous iconic hotel) in Dubai. I would also fly back to Barcelona just to have the rose ice cream at Vioko. Both are expensive luxuries (if you include the airfare), best reserved for when lover escapes her manic hospital schedule and indulges in world traveling with the one and only me.
The third and last macaron has the opposite effect. It is a frightful reminder of childhood nightmares, when evil black jelly beans invades your taste buds! I was originally attracted to the Licorice Macaron for its unique black appearances. Sugar and Plumm might just have a monopoly of black macarons on their hands. Profitability from such a venture is questionable though. Honey is thoroughly disgusted with its taste, but credits the macaron for tasting like licorice.
The mischievous spirit of Loki overtakes Honey, bestowing a light bulb upon her to make a video of me tasting the remaining half of the Licorice Macaron. Surprisingly, this macaron form is not nearly as repulsive as the black jelly bean. Shocked by my ability to withstand the horrifying might of licorice, Honey grieves that my taste buds are dead. I retort that the taste of licorice is like the third minute into kissing her.
Our slice of the Heaven and Hell Cake led our experience from bad to worse. Even after they took half an hour to put a slice of premade cake onto a plate, they can still get our order wrong. We chose to have our cake with a side scoop of blueberry pie ice cream, but the waitress brought it out with vanilla ice cream instead. When we pointed out this minor detail, the chef barks at the incompetence of the ticket writers, and wastefully throws out the vanilla ice cream to replace it with a scoop of the correct flavor. His decision threw out more than an inexpensive scoop of ice cream. If the ice cream was a sunk cost anyway, I cannot understand why he simply did not offer it to us for free, and use the opportunity to apologize for the long wait and be nice by compensating our time with a simple scoop of ice cream. He threw out his chance at redemption.
By chance, a table of two girls sitting next to us ordered the same thing, a slice of the Heaven and Hell Cake. Yet when the waitress brought over our cakes at the same time, our slice was visibly less than half the size of our neighbors. This unfair treatment sent Honey into a fit of rage! She did not understand how someone could cut a cake so that one slice would be the size of Texas, while another slice would be smaller than Singapore on a world map. We were paying the same for less. However, since it was highly unreasonable of us to expect someone that cannot put a slice of cake on a plate in a timely manner to proportionately cut a cake, I tried my best to defuse her anger with humor. The best explanation is that cake slices are served proportionately to breast sizes at Sugar and Plumm, so our neighbor’s watermelons got more bang for the buck than her oranges.
Poor management permeates through every decision. As a not so subtle hint to a room full of paying customers that it was approaching their closing time, they kill the music. Any and all ambiance dies with it. Polite and personal reminders to each table is no longer the vogue. Neither is it fashionable to allow patrons to enjoy their last minutes at their restaurant. They purposely torture everyone, unnecessarily, by locking the main entrance and only permitting leaving customers to exit through a doorway behind us. A cold, windy breeze rushes in each time someone opens that door, giving Honey and our neighboring gals a preview of an Antarctica cruise while they were barely clothed for my viewing pleasure. My heroic back bears the brunt of icy blast, but the wind monsters circumvent my shield and side attacks Honey nonetheless. We catch the hint, finish our ice cream, and pack the cake to go.
Honey is an angry bird as I fly us downtown. Service was an unforgiveable drag on life and the cake was a quality below average. I have no need to return for their Earthquake in a Fishbowl or bring lover to suffer their incompetence. Honey does not want to bring her girl friend here anymore either. Sugar and Plumm should be wished upon our most hated enemies. Honey even wants to slam them on Yelp, but she will not spend the time to write a proper review, so she delegates the power to fail them to me on softrice. Her rage spills over to me, because I tipped 30% (the cake was $9 and I left a $3 tip for the workers to earn something), when they deserved nothing.
The only power to diffuse Honey’s inner berserker was my trustworthy handsomeness, except her lust takes a horrifying swerve. She is salivating for the wrong reasons. Her head fills with urges from the human meat pork bun movie; Honey is thinking of me as her Long Island Duck. There was no better time to switch topics, so I intercept her cannibalistic fantasies with recent postings of Antarctica by Tracy, a Facebook friend in Hong Kong. Iceland used to be her favorite vacation, but now South Georgia trumps it. Tracy has pictures of penguin colonies as far as the eyes can see. Other than close-ups with a polar bear, she even went home with a video clip of a black bird beating through adult penguins and gobbling their poor hatchlings down in one big gulp! All such majestic sights, except the animal cruelty, are natural wonder works that I must personally capture on camera for lover.
My fellow flyer for tonight is more of a city girl. Honey would enjoy one day of excursions to witness the magnificence of nature, but most of her time will be spent worshipping brand name boutiques and nightclubs. I have better chances with Jade on this Antarctica gambit. France, on the other hand, would be a perfect fit for Honey. The girl is still in love with my Paris hoodie (but in black instead of white). If we make the trip to the City of Lights next year, I will get her one, so she can match my awesomeness.
Much later in the night, I arrive home and offer the remaining slice of Heaven and Hell Cake to my brother. He asks for a spoon to enjoy his free food. I search the kitchen for a misplaced spoon and wash it in kind response. I hand the spoon over to him, to which he comments that I was too slow and I should not expect a tip. And this was when I did everything within a New York minute!
Always in a puff of smoke,